Meet & Eat: Jacques Capsouto, Restaurateur

Meet and Eat: NY

Conversations with chefs and food personalities in New York City.

This month Tribeca's Capsouto Frères is celebrating its 30th anniversary. This French bistro, originally run by the three Capsouto brothers, has seen dramatic change in the neighborhood, the economy, and the city itself, but remains a classic New York institution. This Saturday, October 16, the restaurant's actual anniversary date, the Capsoutos will give guests a complimentary glass of Champagne and celebratory anniversary cake, and are offering a prix fixe classic bistro menu all month.

Jacques Capsouto took some time to share the key to the restaurant's longevity with Serious Eats.

Name: Jacques Capsouto
Location: Tribeca
Occupation: Restaurateur

What has it been like to work alongside your brothers? Were there any big fights? There were always fights, but then we'd forget about them very quickly. It was easier in a sense with two brothers, since one of us would mediate, but now that Albert is gone, there are fewer fights anyway.

Your restaurant, Capsouto Frères, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Did you ever think when you started that you'd still be around 30 years later? What are the secrets to your success? We never thought we would get 30 years. The secret is perseverance and persistence.

How did you decide on the dishes to put on your 30th anniversary prix-fixe menu, like duck pâté and chocolate mousse cake, among others? We wanted to do a bistro fare which represents our cuisine, and economics came into play as we did not want it to be too expensive.

Your family background is Sephardic and you have a Passover seder every year that raises money for charity. How did that tradition come about and how did you pick the beneficiary? The tradition came about in the 1980s when people were massacred in a synagogue in Istanbul. Our parents are from Turkey, so we wanted to do something and it clicked to do Passover and send the proceeds to the synagogue. We selected JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) because they supported the UJA-Federation and contributed the entire donation. The first year we had the money sent to Istanbul, then to Israel, and then all over world.

You're also a big fan of Israeli wine. Do you have a bottle or two you'd recommend to convert any skeptics out there? Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Galilee, Israel and Petit Castel, Merlot, Bordeaux blend, Jerusalem, Israel.

October 28th, the Parks Department of New York City will rename Tribeca's CaVaLa Park after Albert, your younger brother who sadly passed away earlier this year. Do you think this is a fitting tribute to him? Yes, definitely. Albert was very involved with the community. It was his second full-time job. I am amazed by the amount of good work he did for the community.

Tribeca has seen many restaurants come and go over the years. What are or were some of your favorites? Chanterelle, City Hall, and Corton.

When you come back home to New York after spending time out of town, what is the first New York food you crave? A hamburger.